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Last-minute contract signing and King's comments about School 80

Monday already seems like ages ago, but at Monday's city school board meeting, some rather important business was taken care of at the end - the very, very end. In fact, it required the board president to hang around after the meeting was over just to make a few things official.

The board approved four contracts that the State Education Department was impatiently waiting on, several of which State Education Commissioner John King has spoken about at length as examples of the "lack of effectiveness" of the Buffalo school district administration:

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"Restorations" to music programs in Buffalo schools not so restorative


OK. So Tuesday morning, Mayor Brown gathers a group of instrument playing school kids around him and announces that the city is giving the district $400,000 to restore "all" of it's instrumental music programs. Superintendent Pamela Brown also refers to restorations to "all" schools. That's good news, but not QUITE as good as the public has been led to believe.

Even though most schools that had eliminated band programs will have those programs restored to some degree, most aren't getting their programs restored to last school year's levels. And, contrary to what we reported in today's paper, it appeared TWO high schools -- Riverside and Bennett -- weren't getting their band programs restored at all.

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Will the district's school transfer and turnaround plans get approved by the state?

I don't have a crystal ball that can see into State Education Commissioner John King's head. But King sounded a little skeptical while speaking with The Buffalo News editorial board last week. In regard to the ability for Buffalo Public Schools to submit an acceptable student transfer plan, and turnaround plans for East and Lafayette high schools, he said: "The core question is: Can Buffalo develop a clear, coherent and detailed plan of improvement and performance in these schools?"

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Live blog: Special Buffalo school board meeting Aug. 12, including vote on East and Lafayette plans

The Buffalo Board of Education will vote on the state-mandated school turnaround plans for East and Lafayette high schools, as well as contracts with a variety of private, school turnaround organizations, including John's Hopkins University.

Here's the very brief agenda. No electronic copy of the full agenda has been issued to anyone even though school board members got hard copies of the agenda over the weekend.

Talking with the King

State Education Commissioner John King spoke with The Buffalo News Editorial Board for half an hour Monday via conference call, and I sat in with my own set of questions. It was a nice arrangement because he got to make the points he wanted to make regarding the need to raise education standards in New York State, and we got to ask questions on a broader array of topics -- namely the state's directive regarding East and Lafayette high schools.

He made a number of comments, some of which we're publishing right away, and some we'll use in future stories. But there were a couple of comments were noting here.

For instance, when King praised to the organization of Rochester's central office, particularly in terms of its school turnaround planning staff, I asked whether he'd drawn any conclusions regarding Superintendent Pamela Brown's own recent reorganization of her central office. 

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How well did students in your school do on the Common Core tests?

Scores are down across the board this year, given the tougher standards brought by the Common Core.

Find out how the students in your school did on the English language arts and math tests.

To select multiple counties, districts or schools, hold down the Control key on a PC (or Command key on a Mac) while you make your selections.

This database includes results from every public district and charter school in Western New York (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties).

Online Database by Caspio
Click here to load this Caspio Online Database.

Crunching the state test results

Three News staffers are working hard all day to make sense of the English and math standardized test results released by the State Education Department. Be sure to check back here for more information. We will also be tweeting results @BNschoolzone.

In the meantime here's State Education Commissioner John King Jr.'s PowerPoint presentation, shared with reporters this morning as part of an hourlong conference call.


2013 English-math test scores presentation.ppt


The breakfast mess

I hear from the Phil Rumore, president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, on a regular basis. He's actually often an excellent source of information in a district that is generally considered to be a rather closed institution. But I didn't hear a word from him regarding the ongoing breakfast dispute until I called him Monday.

Granted, all this started before I took the city education beat. This arbitration, which picks up again later this month, puts the union in the position of fighting against classroom breakfasts for children because they create too much of a mess for teachers.

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Board receives bad legal advice regarding public information

The Buffalo school district's new lead attorney, General Counsel Rashondra Martin, made her official debut at Wednesday's special school board meeting, but she already has me worried.

During the meeting, board member Jason McCarthy said he wanted to know if it was true that certain members of the superintendent's Executive Cabinet were given raises. He particularly mentioned the four "chiefs of school leadership" - formerly known as community superintendents - who have direct supervisory responsibilities over the district's school buildings.

As we previously reported in our story on the reorganization, the chief of school leadership positions were considered promotions under Superintendent Pamela Brown's reorganization plan. Each of these positions were assigned more staff, more responsibility and, presumably, more money.

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Buffalo's career and tech ed programs

Buffalo has an astonishing array of career and technical education programs housed within its high schools. Unfortunately, as noted in my story, Buffalo has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to enrolling and graduating students who are capable of passing industry assessments.

Below is the list of all the career programs the Buffalo district offers. Programs with an * are state certified.

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee |

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |